When Do Something Awards Semi-Finalist Mark Arnoldy had a medical crisis while visiting Nepal, he realized how desperately the country's citizens needed better health care. Mark founded Nyaya Health, and through the efforts of the organization, they have treated more than 85,000 patients.
1. How did you feel when you first learned of the problem you are addressing?
To be honest, I first thought of myself as an observer and a researcher because as a good student, that’s what I was always told to be. But that became pretty boring and extremely uncomfortable quickly because I realized so much needed to be done. Those that know me well know that I’m an action guy, and my life motto is borrowed from one of the greatest public health leaders ever to live, Jim Grant, who said “morality must march with capacity.”
2. How do you feel about it now?
I wake up knowing that the work we do is hard, that there will be set backs, that progress will almost always be slower than I would hope. But I wake up hungry to do whatever it takes to navigate around those challenges to ensure we provide health care to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. I do believe that how well and how quickly we treat the easily ignored will be the metric of our generation’s morality and commitment.
3. What person or experience sticks with you from when you first started your project?
I once hosted a discussion group of women in rural Nepal to learn more from them about how to best improve the health care system in their communities. When asking a woman with a malnourished child what treatment was offered to her child, she turned to me and said that “the only prescription was to wait for the child to die.” There was a whirlwind of emotion that followed as I took a few moments to process her response – shock, anger, and sadness included – but the compulsion to do something is what I left with.
4. Can you describe the moment you knew that you were actually making a difference?
What I find the most compelling is that after only about 9 months of operating a small clinic in a region that lacked a single doctor for over 260,000 people, the government of Nepal invited us to open a hospital in partnership with them that had been closed for almost 30 years. That’s an extremely powerful gesture and an unprecedented vote of confidence – to be in a community for only 9 months and then be asked to operate a hospital that had been established as a promise to that community but had failed to be that promise for nearly 30 years.
5. What was the most difficult roadblock you faced when you tried to start or grow your project?
Truthfully, my own moments of self-doubt. They were somewhat rare, but they were shaking when they occurred. But in those moments, I worked to refocus my thoughts on the community of people that believe in and are invested in us, and most importantly, the patients that deserve this care.
6. What’s been the biggest lesson through the process?
That nothing valuable and durable can be achieved alone. I want to steal an African proverb that states this idea in a much more compelling way than I could do on my own: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together."
7. What has surprised you the most about the journey that has taken you here today?
To me, I’m continually surprised that skepticism is so much stronger in older generations and the very people that have (at least materially speaking) more power to change the world. All of us in this “Do Something generation” see more problems around the world than any other generation ever has. It is our job to be a beacon of possibility and show that changing these problems is doable.
8. What advice do you have for other young leaders who are having a tough time getting their ideas off of the ground?
I’d first say that I think it’s a misconception that young people lack resources. Don’t let people convince you of that. Our university campuses are some of the most resource-rich places in the entire world. Think about it – there is a reason some of the most ground-breaking companies have been built by college students (google, facebook, etc…).
9. If you could have done one thing differently based on what you know now, what would it be and why?
I would have found more storytellers to share the lives of our patients and progress with the world in a more compelling way. I say that not because I want to manipulate anyone’s ideas about our work through ‘marketing’ but because I believe deeply in what does happen in a remote corner of Far-Western Nepal. But our team is too stretched, working 18 hour days to face the daily challenges of life there, to also be maximizing that valuable sharing.
10. What’s next for your project?
We want to turn our hospital into Far-Western Nepal’s best clinical and training facility. We will never solve the problem of delivering health care in rural areas unless we create a way to train motivated local staff. We have the partners and expertise to do that but not the facility. Also, we are building a new innovative method of providing better care and transparent reporting through our community health workers via a new mobile device partnership.
11. If you could have any celebrity film a PSA for your organization, who would it be and why?
Without question, Brad Pitt – because we graduated from the same high school in Springfield, Missouri (Kickapoo High School!), and I deeply admire the work the Jolie-Pitt Foundation is engaged in around the world.
What Can You Do?
Learn more about the rest of the Do Something Awards Semi-Finalists.